28 November 2013

At 0400 the wind had lightened and I shook out the reefs in the mainsail but there was still enough wind to keep the Jib up. The sky has been similar to the past few days in that it has been dull and overcast in the morning and brightening up in the afternoon.
By 0800 the wind had dropped lighter still and I could set the Genoa. And, it’s been like that all day since then. Not more than a SW F3 and often less.

I spoke to Alyson this morning and asked which direction this low was moving. She said it looked almost stationary, SW’ly winds all day today then maybe S’ly tomorrow. The barometer is rising 1013 yesterday and 1020 today so we are slowly coming out of it, but it is uncommon for this area.

I began to hear a dull scraping noise like two pieces of steel that needed oiling. It was only occasionally at first then more often. It seemed to be coming from outside the hull. I went aft for a look and could see nothing obvious. I thought it was coming from the rudder, which on Elsi is a heavy 10mm steel plate. I oiled the top rudder loop, which was the only one I could get to but it sounded like it was coming more from under the water. I looked over the side but couldn’t see very much for our movement through the water.

In the late morning I saw a whale. I was sitting out in the cockpit and saw the plume of spray then the back and fin rise and disappear. It all happened in a few seconds so I couldn’t be certain was it was. It didn’t look very big, maybe 20-25 feet.

At midday it was fine enough to take my duvet out and give it a bit of an airing.
In the early afternoon the noise I’d heard earlier was still there and it began to bother me. The most likely thing I could think of was wear and tear on the rudder loops but maybe one of the rudder pins had come loose and fallen out. I decided I’d have to to heave to and check it out. Even doing that I still couldn’t see clearly under the water. I would have to go in and take a look. I dug out the goggles and pulled on a pair of swimming trunks. Then just as I was about to go in I saw three fins pop out of the water just yards away from the boat! My immediate thought was sharks but they were only dolphins swimming slowly south. They are the first I’ve seen and it was uncanny they should choose this moment to appear!

I’ve only ever seen a shark out at sea once before, in the Caribbean. Now, of course, I imagined the ocean teemed with them and they were all lying in wait for me just under the surface. Any shark who did gobble me up would have got a bonus, I’d just had a bellyful of fried tatties for lunch.
I tied a line around my waist and stepped over the rail. I have steel steps welded on the stern leading into the water just for this purpose. I was about to take my first step down when there was a sudden crack from the mainsail. I jumped and had to laugh at myself. Elsi was having a chuckle at my expense and had timed it perfectly. I took a brave pill, stepped down and slid under the surface. I didn’t hang around long but from what I could see all the rudder pins were there and it all looked ok.
So, I’m assuming it is wear and tear on the rudder loops. There still should be plenty of metal there but it’s odd I only heard it today for the first time.

The noon position today was right on the fold of the chart so I’ve flipped it over and it’s showing the Cape Verdes. All we need now is a fair wind to blow us down there.

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